Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities begin Monday from Cleveland with the annual Home Run Derby, and the Blue Jays are represented by one of the sport’s bright young stars.
Home Run Derby Rules
These days, MLB’s All-Star Home Run Derby is comprised of eight players facing off in a bracket-style competition. Seeding is based on who has the most homers when the field was announced (last Tuesday). However, that had to be altered over the weekend as top-seeded Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers had to pull out with a back injury – he plans on playing in the actual All-Star Game on Tuesday.
Yelich, the reigning NL MVP and a favourite again for that award this year, leads the majors with 31 dingers. He has been replaced by Oakland’s Matt Chapman, who is ninth in the American League with 21 homers. MLB didn’t want to reseed the whole field and simply had Chapman slide in at No. 1.
Just like the NCAA Tournament bracket, this is single elimination and in each round the higher seed hits second. Batters have four minutes per round to hit as many homers as possible and the clock begins on the first pitch; all these guys pick who pitches to them. If the player hitting second surpasses the number of homers the first batter hit, that competition ends immediately as homers don’t carry over to the next round. Batters get two timeouts in the first two rounds, one of 45 seconds and one of 30. In addition, 30 seconds of bonus time is added to any player’s clock for hitting at least two home runs that each equal or exceed 440 feet as measured by Statcast. The winner of the Derby gets $1 million (U.S.).
Home Run Derby Competitors and Odds
As the top seed, Chapman (+700) will face No. 8 and Blue Jays rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the youngest player to ever compete in the field but the +330 favourite at Sports Interaction. The 20-year-old has hit only eight homers in 225 at-bats and hasn’t gone yard since June 29 vs. the Royals. No Blue Jays have won this event. One hasn’t even competed since Shawn Green in 1999. Guerrero’s Hall of Fame father competed in this event a few times and won it in 2007 while playing for the Angels and the Derby in San Francisco.
The Chapman-Guerrero winner will face either No. 4 Alex Bregman (+1000) of the Houston Astros or No. 5 Joc Pederson (+800) of the Los Angeles Dodgers. On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 Pete Alonso (+350) of the Mets takes on No. 7 Carlos Santana (+900) of the hometown Indians. Needless to say, Santana has an advantage in knowing the ballpark better than any of the other competitors. Alonso’s 30 homers are already a Mets rookie record for an entire season and third-most by a rookie ever in the first half of a season. He’s the NL Rookie of the Year favourite. The winner there takes on either No. 3 Josh Bell (+333) of the Pittsburgh Pirates or No. 6 Ronald Acuna Jr. (+1200) of the Atlanta Braves, last season’s NL Rookie of the Year.
The defending champion of the event is Bryce Harper, who won it while playing with the Nationals and the game in D.C. but the now-Philadelphia Phillie took a pass this year. Many big-name players are afraid of the dreaded (but false) Home Run Derby Curse and don’t compete.
Bell beats Pederson in the final.